A Few Good Moms: Can you handle the truth about brotherly love?

Best friends and worst enemies....nobody knows you like your siblings know you.
Best friends and worst enemies....nobody knows you like your siblings know you.

When the toddler came to the hospital to meet his baby brother for the first time, he was transfixed. He carefully wrapped his arms around the bundled newborn and announced, “Don’t worry, baby. I got you.” Is there anything sweeter than brotherly love?

You want the truth about siblings? I think you can handle it.

When my second son was born, our family felt complete. My husband and I were excited to have the two boys, just a couple of years apart. We fantasized about the fun they would have together.

We high-fived smugly when we envisioned how easy breezy we would have it in just a few years with a playmate available 24/7. You’re welcome, bro.

Well, guess what? Sometimes it works out that way, and it can be wonderful, like when my guys hang out on the beach, or work together on a project, or help each other enjoy a new activity like long boarding or water skiing or poker. (What? A good mom can’t encourage some real-life skills?)

But often it is really challenging.

No one knows you like your brother or sister . . . or knows how to drive you crazy. Some days EVERYTHING turns into an argument.

You know how whining can grate on your nerves like fingernails across a chalkboard? Sibling fighting has a similar power, the bickering causing your blood pressure to rise until you feel your brain begin to melt inside your head.

In a fascinating twist, a certain invisible magnetic force exists between sibs . . . so that even when they are entirely over each other they resist being separated.

Somehow they find their way back into each other’s space, down the stairs, into the room, onto the chair . . . the one already occupied by his brother. (I didn’t know! I didn’t see him! I was just trying to sit down!)

My boys do agree consistently about one thing: that I absolutely favor the other. Each one is convinced that he has it harder, that his brother enjoys unfair advantage, that I am always easier on the other kid.

Here’s the thing: I know I have seen real affection between them over the years, and I cling to those precious spots of time like a lifeline that can pull me out of the riptide of their epic brawls and their endless quarrels.

How the older one bravely took his flu shot first, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists and struggling not to cry, so his little brother would not be afraid. How the younger one watched his brother in awe and admiration in order to mimic his every move, even attempting to take the training wheels off of his bike at age three so as not to be left behind in the next adventure.

A wise friend once told me that the best you can hope for with siblings is that they will someday align against you . . . thus cementing their own bond.

While that may sound pretty harsh, parents who have endured painful sibling acrimony may embrace this idea as a weirdly optimistic scenario. The truth is, even when it puts you on the outs, if it means that your kids will cease and desist – and instead really take care of each other – no doubt you will happily take that deal.

Want to get a better handle on sibling stuff? See how Tracy Curtis gets her boys on board with household chores, read what the NY Times has to say about the verdict rendered in the case of brotherly destruction at the Boston marathon, and revisit those most awesome bros from the Newhart show.